We are now officially past the NFL combine where a lot of soon to be NFL players made big impacts on NFL Franchises. Players like Isaiah Simmons and Tristan Wirfs solidified themselves as top 10 NFL picks. After the combine is the next part of the offseason, which of course is free agency. While our Minnesota Vikings do not have a lot of cap room to be very active in free agency, we will be making key moves that determine the 2020 season and beyond for our franchise. Now let’s dive into the Minnesota Vikings’ Free Agency Defense preview starting with the defensive line.
We begin with a move that already happened back on February 20th when Everson Griffen opted out of his current contract. Both the Vikings and Everson Griffen have expressed interest in him returning to the team, but not at his cap hit of what was scheduled to be over $13 million. Everson has been with the Vikings since they drafted him back in 2010 out of USC, and I fully expect him to return to the Vikings. The Vikings have rewarded him twice with contract extensions, and they stood with him during difficult times back in 2018. I would like to think Everson appreciates what the organization has done for him, and that he will be back in purple in 2020.
Another defensive lineman is going to be a free agent and that is defensive end, Stephen Weatherly. Stephen was a seventh-round pick out of Vanderbilt back in 2016, and he has had some bright moments with the Vikings. He didn’t play too much in 2016 and 2017, but he started a total of 7 games over the past two years. Weatherly is the classic case of hitting the market at the right time as he will be just 26 years old when the 2020 season starts.
I think it’s more than fair to say Stephen will not be a Viking in 2020. Add everything up and it makes perfect sense as to why he will not be in purple next year. The Vikings have the least cap room available in the NFL and they simply can’t pay everyone. Weatherly has to make a decision in his and his family’s best interest, and he will get paid elsewhere.
Linval Joseph is due over $10 million in 2020; he is not worth his salary at this point in time. 2019 was Linval’s least productive year with Minnesota, and the Vikings need all of the cap space they can get. While Linval may be a Viking in 2020, he won’t be at his current salary. He will turn 32 years old in October and he is not as valuable as he once was. Cutting Linval to save cap space is an easy decision.
The first player we will discuss is Mackensie Alexander. Alexander has had ups and downs during his time in Minneapolis, to say the least. There have been times where Alexander has been toast, and there have been times where he is playing like a star. However, as tight as we are against the cap, there is no place for Mackensie in 2020. He will be playing elsewhere in 2020.
The next player we are going to discuss is Trae Waynes. Waynes was a first-round pick out of Michigan State in 2015 and for the most part, he’s been relatively average. He has never been a shutdown corner, but he’s never been anywhere near as bad as Xavier Rhodes was in 2019 either. The Vikings are going to have to make a decision between him and Anthony Harris in a few weeks. That should be an easy decision. Anthony is a much better player than Waynes and he would receive a contract extension before Waynes would. The Vikings want to bring Waynes back, but it might not be realistic with the cap situation.
Next, we are going to discuss Anthony Harris. Anthony Harris led the league in interceptions in 2019, and he should have been a Pro Bowler. Anthony has gone from an undrafted free agent in 2015 to a man who is getting paid in 2020. If the Vikings do not sign him, then he will get paid by another NFL team. Anthony is 28 years old and undoubtedly has some great football left. The question isn’t whether or not he will get paid. The question is by who? I think in the worst-case scenario, the Vikings place the franchise tag on him and try and work out a long term deal next year.
The final player we will discuss in today’s article is Jayron Kearse. Kearse didn’t have the best of luck during his time in Minnesota, but he made the most out of the opportunities he was given. Harrison Smith has been a starter since 2012 and there’s nothing Kearse could have done about that. Kearse has a lot of potential, and certainly, one team will take a chance on him. The Vikings simply will not have enough cap space to keep him. He will get a chance to play more elsewhere. There’s bound to be one team that gives him a chance to start.
Ultimately I expect the Vikings to re-sign Everson Griffen to a much more team-friendly deal. I also expect them to cut Xavier Rhodes, but since he is not a free agent, we didn’t discuss him in this article. I think the Vikings will do everything in their power to keep Anthony Harris as well. Rotational players like Stephen Weatherly and Jayron Kearse will be gone. The Vikings will attempt to replace them in the upcoming draft. This defense will look a little bit different in 2020 compared to years past.
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